Sunday, February 18, 2007

Sunday Dinner

Tom says:
We took a break from the restaurant today to cook Sunday dinner for Maureen's parents down in Massachusetts. Sunday dinner is something Maureen and I both grew up having. In today's over-scheduled world, though, this is a meal, that for most of us, exists only in fond memory--nostalgia even--except on the rare holiday that ends the weekend.

Z will serve lunch Mon-Fri only, but dinner every night of the week. On Sundays we plan to open a bit earlier and offer our own interpretation of Sunday Dinner: a fixed price, multi-course menu where items except for the entree choice are served family style. Because today's world is overscheduled. Because dining options are limited on Sundays. Because, as Maureen likes to say, if it weren't for Sunday Dinner, I might have been any number of things in this world instead of a chef/restaurateur.

Gazpacho? Check. Cheese straws? Check. Prime rib in the oven? Roasting away. My grandparents are arriving in an hour and I still need to set the table and arrange the centerpiece of roses from the garden.

“Mom!” I yell, “Jacki won’t leave me alone and get out of the way!” Jacki is my sister, younger by two years. It is four o'clock on a late-summer afternoon in 1978. I am 11 years old and in the final stages of preparing for my first Sunday Dinner party, what my family now calls my debut into the world of all things culinary. The menu?

Hors d’ouevres:
Cheddar cheese straws
Insalata de Arroz (rice salad)

Caesar Salad (prepared table side in the old-school style with raw eggs)

Roasted bone-in Prime Rib of Beef
Twice-baked Potatoes
Steamed Asparagus

Chocolate Cream Pie (my grandfather’s favorite)

My mother brought out her wedding china, the good silver. Is it any wonder I fell in love with every aspect of entertaining at such a young age?

My mother wasn't just your classic stay-at-home mom. She was the enigmatic product of an upper middle class upbringing and the earthy-crunchy movement that seemingly defined 1970s California. She made everything and still makes most things today from scratch--bread, yogurt, granola and jam--and she always used local, natural ingredients. Cookies? Never store bought. Cakes from the bakery were for people who were unmotivated. Looking back on this now, it's unbelievable to me that I used to complain about having hot muffins or fresh-fruit turnovers at breakfast while my friends had PopTarts. She even taught cooking classes to the neighborhood kids.

Dinner, however, is where my mother excelled and Sunday Dinner was her crown jewel. The leftovers from that dinner generated another 2-3 dinners that carried us through the first half of the week. Sunday's roast leg of lamb was curried with rice on Monday and turned into Scotch Barley Soup on Tuesday. Strangely enough, as good as Sunday dinner was, I always looked forward to these 'leftover meals' and it's the creativity she applied here that most strongly influences my menu recipes today.

That first dinner party wasn't exactly a success. Instead of a teaspoon of dry mustard in the rice salad, I used a tablespoon, but everyone, even my sister, overlooked the mistake (obviously I didn't and still don't seeing as I can recall the exact error almost 30 years later). But the Sunday Dinner I cooked yesterday--NY strip loin roast, sauteed brussel sprouts with maple-cured bacon, and pan-fried red bliss and yukon gold potatoes--that was a success. Maureen's mother said that one of the best parts about it was that she didn't have to make it. If that's your feeling about Sunday Dinner as well, then soon enough you'll be able to have our favorite meal of the week with us at Z. We, of course, look forward to serving you.

1 comment:

jacki@jacpat said...

Now my first attempt at a meal was not so successful. I set the kitchen on fire. Which might explain why I went into education instead of cooking.